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CALIGONAUT

Crossover Prog • Norway


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A Norwegian act CALIGONAUT was formed as a solo project by Ole Michael BJØRNDAL (guitars, vocals) who is renowned as a member of Norwegian prog projects like OAK, AIRBAG, or Bjørn RIIS. "Magnified As Giants" was released via Apollon Records in February 2021 as his debut album, in collaboration with his music mates.

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4.20 | 120 ratings
Magnified as Giants
2021

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CALIGONAUT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

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Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

5 stars Breathing new life into old time-honored sounds and styles.

Symphonic ProgWho are these guys? What is their pedigree--how did they get here? Instead of questions like these I feel as if I should be lavishing thank yous and kudos on these inspired musicians. I LOVE YOUR NEW ALBUM!

1. "Emperor" (14:35) opens with piano sprinkling notes over the keyboard like John Coltraine's Love Supreme before going prog metal on us. I call it brilliant! Refreshing! At the 2:15 mark the music settles into a kind of folk rock format as lead vocalist begins singing in a mellifluous voice that most reminds me WOBBLER's Andreas Prestmo, Magic Bus' Paul Evans, or even Hatfield's Richard Sinclair. The Wobbler similarities remain until the middle instrumental section which sound more like Red-era King Crimson--a trend that continues into a more stark, spacious section at 7:50 in which violin and multi-voiced harmonized vocals join in. At the 9:00 mark the drums go a little wonky, then there is an odd, out-of-place piano-accompanied vocal section. Fortunately, this is short-lived, as we fall back into the KC-supported motif from the ninth minute for the eleventh minute. At 11:25, then, there is a display of heavy -like over which some truly inspired emotional Frippery burns and wails. At 13:50, nylon-stringed acoustic guitar takes over as the primary accompaniment as female background vocalists lay a nest of folk harmonies over which Ole Michael finishes the song in a kind of MICE ON STILTS way. Wow. That was a ride--and quite fresh and different. I loved the dynamic diversity. Except for that odd piano motif in the tenth minute, they made it work amazingly well! The best prog epic I've heard of the year! (28/30)

2. "Hushed" (10:43) fast arpeggiated Flim and the BB's-like guitar opens this song before Ole Michael enters. The sound is very much like The Decemberists--both musically and in the vocal tones and stylings of Ole Michale Bjørndal. Thick vibrating electric bass takes over before drums and other folk instruments join in for the second verse. This is great. Now church organ adds its oddly timed arpeggi before a break allows violin to solo. The next section notes Ole Michael's vocal to sound much more fragile in a higher octave--like a young Neil Young. Electric guitar solos as church organ and rock rhythm section play below. This is so good! A bit of an Anekdoten feel here--though it turns more Mike Oldfield/early Genesis in the seventh minute before a long semi-empty break makes room for the three minute finale of fine YES-like symphonic prog jamming. I love the brave and prominent use of church organ and the old unfiltered sound of the drums and front-and-center Rickenbacher-like bass. (19/20)

3. "Magnified as Giants" (5:46) an excellent acoustic guitar-dominated throwback to THE MOODY BLUES and the folkier side of early GENESIS and early GENTLE GIANT. My favorite song on the album. (9.5/10)

4. "Lighter Than Air" (19:34) Here Ole & Co. are treading lightly into Van Der Graaf Generator territory. Ole Michael's pitchy vocal performance in the first three minutes makes one appreciate just how talented Peter Hammill was. Nice blues-jazzy guitar solo in the fourth minute followed by some nice RICHARD WRIGHT-like synth work in this now-very PINK FLOYD-sounding section. At 4:50 there is a bridge into a shift into more WOBBLER-like territory. Again, Ole Michael's vocal attempt makes it apparent that he's stretching himself a bit beyond his skill level. A couple of RUSH-like chorus and its codas and bridges helps to remove the Hammill standards away while we soon slide into a very steady classic rock motif in which the electric guitar can show off his Joe Satriani and Ted Nugent practice moves. Synth gets a turn in the eleventh minute before yielding again to the lead guitar. The bottom empties out in the twelfth minute, opening up for an eerie space-psych passage over which Ole again tries his hand at P. Hammill imitation. It's a cool section--very NEKTAR- or, perhaps, Hawkwind-like. It builds and hypnotizes until the 15:00 mark when it erupts into a more early PINK FLOYD-like mini-crescendo before settling down into more space-blues guitar over which the Hammill performance continues. I have to admit: the guitar soloing has feeling--even a little of PAUL BUCHANAN's magical touch and emotion. Though the vocal performance falls a little short of the standards set by Mr. Hammill, it's not by much. And the musical themes and references are quite well spliced, but it is the guitar work--especially the final quarter of the song, that shine high and bright. (37/40)

Total Time 50:38

A/five stars; My favorite album of 2021, so far, and one of the ten best.

 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

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Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by mental_hygiene

5 stars Caligonaut is a relatively new name to the prog scene, albeit with the backing of some of the best bands from the norwegian scene. Prog nerds such as myself will notice the unmistakable voice of Andreas W. S. Prestmo. However, the full roster reveals that this is essentially a Wobbler/Airbag collaboration: the bass, keys, and vocals of Wobbler with the guitars and drums of Airbag. It's interesting that as of this review, Caligonaut is considered a crossover prog band. While airbag certainly has crossover moments, this album is much more in line with symphonic prog.

The opening track, Emperor, is an amazing choice for an introduction track. While Prestmo's appearance on vocals certainly rings wobbler to my ears, the most Wobbler thing about this album is the understated bass work of Kristian Karl Hultgren. It has that clear and full bodied rumble that fills up the entire soundstage. Mixed with Bj'rndal's guitar work, this is a very lush symphonic album that has some bite but mostly awe-inspiring moments. Take, for instance, the mid-climax of Emperor that then strips back to piano. The introduction of synths at the second climax is so amazing, and it also calls in a beautiful guitar solo. This album really doesn't sound like a solo project in that Bj'rndal does not necessarily dominate with the style of Airbag (contrast that with Bjorn Riis, who continues Airbag's sound in a more toned back setting on his solo records). That is, the elements of each song are finely tuned and in balance.

Hushed begins with some technical but mellowed acoustic guitar accompanied by voice and piano. The best part of Hushed is how it balances and develops its textures. Everything flows so finely and directs tension so well, especially when the scratch-like sound effect brings in the backbeat in the beginning. The vocal harmonies in the post-chorus are especially awesome, a mix of the direct sound of Bj'rndal's voice with Prestmo's and the others. The violin on the first two tracks, courtesy of 'sa Ree, is beautifully done. Ree is another musician in the Norwegian scene, featured on Jordsjo, Wobbler, Tusmorke, etc. Another great moment on hushed is when the bass comes in. It builds into a great scene featuring cathedral-style organ. This is symphonic gold!

Magnified as Giants opens with some Genesis-style acoustic comping and such a beautiful vocal melody. The introduction is very much prog folk, featuring mostly acoustic instruments and more of those vocal harmonies. The "pain and remorse" line is one of the most awe-inspiring choruses I've heard in modern symphonic prog in general. The title track might be one of the shortest and most digestible songs on this record, but as strong as it is, it almost feels like a prelude to the epic Lighter Than Air.

This record spends the perfect amount of time dwelling on the most beautiful mellow moments. Lighter Than Air is obviously the flagship song from Magnified as Giants. This is the most airbag-like of the 4 songs just in tone and in atmosphere. That said, the symphonic elements are way more present than any individual Airbag record. The first synth solo is utterly iconic, mixing and harmonizing with itself in such an amazing and airy way. The chorus of Lighter Than Air marks one of the most intense points on this record. The guitar solos throughout this song are often really dissonant, atmospheric, and intense. There's a later section that almost breaks into the ambient realm with how spacy it is.

In summary, Magnified as Giants is another welcome addition from the Norwegian prog scene. Especially in the context of this year, this is definitely a contender for the album of the year for me. While not nearly as inventive and fresh as Black Midi's Cavalcade, this is one of the best executed symphonic albums I've heard in the last decade. This is definitely one of the best crossover events (supergroups?) in prog history as is.

 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

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Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by tempest_77

5 stars Magnified as Giants is, so far, the best thing to come from the world of prog in 2021 (IMO). It is debut album by the new Norwegian artist Caligonaut, which is simultaneously a solo project and a supergroup. Creatively, the composition and song-writing for the record is done entirely by guitarist Ole Michael Bjørndal, who until now was primarily the guitarist for the Bjørn Riis band, as well as being the most recent member to join Airbag. However, the ensemble on the album itself is made up of various members of the Norwegian bands Wobbler, Pymlico, and, of course, Airbag. The band works fantastically together, and the record is a fantastic combination of Wobbler's signature Scandinavian symphonic sound with Airbag's more accessible and melodic tendencies.

Emperor is a very strong opener to the album, and is probably my favorite track on the record. Within the first two minutes, we are given an immediate taste of the virtuosic capabilities of the band, as the opening hits section moves between a round of drum fills, bass fills, and then guitar fills. The body of the song itself is an excellent mid-tempo idea with some really great dynamic movement. The song comes to an initial climax around 9 minutes, before pulling back to a piano section that proceeds to build back up into the song's true peak, the final guitar solo which starts just at about 11:25 and lasts for about two minutes, during which we get to fully appreciate Bjørndal's capacity to absolutely shred.

Hushed starts with a really awesome interlocking acoustic guitar duo, which I believe consists of Pymlico's Stephan Hvinden alongside Bjørndal. The song transitions from this acoustic section to a more symphonic middle section that features Norwegian composer and organist Iver Kleive on church organ, along with some more impeccable soloing from Bjørndal. Eventually, the song transitions again into a bombastic final section that combines the acoustic beginning with the organ-driven middle section.

The title track, Magnified as Giants, is the shortest and most mellow song on the album. It's a beautiful atmospheric track that primarily consists of vocals and overlapping guitar parts, along with some supporting keys and bass. Andreas Prestmo's backing vocals really shine through on this song, and it's probably the moment on the album that most fully encapsulates the combined sounds of both Airbag and Wobbler.

Lighter Than Air is an outstanding 19 and a half minute closer to the album, and it has a bit of an unconventional (though still brilliant) structural arc to it. The song's most intense and dramatic section is between 5:30 and 11:30, with the second half of the song consisting of a more mellow and atmospheric outro, save for a final climactic passage from about 13:30 to 15:30. The final note is played at about 18:30, with the track's fadeout lasting an entire minute. I'll save most of the song's details for you to experience yourself, but there are some gorgeous guitar parts and synth parts on this one.

All in all, Magnified as Giants is yet another outstanding record from the Scandinavian symphonic prog scene. An easy 5 stars from me, it already has me excited to see what Bjørndal does with Caligonaut next.

 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

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Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by omphaloskepsis

5 stars Best album I've heard since the world changed!

"Caligonaut"- portmanteau of Latin words: "caligo" for mist, and "naut" for traveller/navigator. Known for guitar work with Oak, Airbag, and Gentle Knife, "Ole Michael Bjorndal" composed, plays guitar, and sings lead on Magnified as Giants. Bjorndal attended courses with Guitar Circle, formerly known as Guitar Craft, which was founded by Robert Fripp and uses new standard tuning. One of these courses was a week in Caorle, Italy directed by Fripp himself.

"Magnified as Giants" features the Wobbler trio: Lars Fredrik Frøislie on Hammond organ, mellotron, and piano. Andreas W. S. Prestmo contributes backup vocals. Kristian Karl Hultgren plays bass throughout the album. Arild Broter (Pymlico) and Henrik Fossum (Airbag) split drum duties. All Norwegian Daddio's! Yet, Caligonaut is entirely Bjorndal's baby. Bjorndal's powerful compositions, intimate vocals and lyrics color the landscape like Autumn foliage aflame. Bjorndal filters influences and the musicianship of contributing band members through the sieve of his vision, distilling four musical cognacs and brandies-intoxicating and exquisite in flavor.

Emperor 10/10 (14:35)- After a piano prelude, Bjørndal entices his band mates to donate the most ominous drum fills and astounding bass runs I've heard in a row. Bjørndal bribes the rhythm section to give up their treasures with a dramatic guitar riff, that limelights the drums and bass like a spotlight isolates a pair of figure skaters on an Olympic icefield. An evocative lead guitar drains into the song proper. I've been listening to Caligonaut's album for two months. It drips with anticipatory moments. As Emperor unfolds, I keep anticipating upcoming glorious passages... passages that make my hair tingle and my skin erupt in warm goose bumps. Wobbler's Lars Fredrik Froislie's analog keyboards meld with a rhythm section reminiscent of a combination of Wind and Wuthering and Nursery Crime. Vocal harmonies from the forest.

Emperor's lyrics reveal a toxic love affair between citizens and a national leader. Passionate heavy crush on an ideal mate, who in fact is a love bombing psychopath. A lush violin lingers. In this song, Bjordal's guitar doesn't sound like Steve Hackett's, but Bjordal's guitar lead makes my emotions feel like Steve Hackett's leads in The Music Box. Greek chorus of oak tree nymphs, backup harmonies foretell betrayal-

Hushed 9/10 (10:43)- is an emotive singer-songwriter symphonic art piece. Outstanding example of Fripp's Standard Tuning, fraught with explorations across misty autumn meadows and dreary forests of past relationships. An acoustic silver filigree guitar weaves around a cathedral organ. Hushed floats like Yes's "To Be Over". Deep-felt vocal melodies twist and turn. At times I felt like I was in an alternative universe where Anthony Philips rejoined Genesis on the Trick of the Tail album.

Magnified As Giants 9.5/10 (5:36)- Gorgeous hooks. Another Standard Tuned song. Most catchy song on the album. Can't get this song out of my head. In some passages, Bjordal's vocals remind me of David Bowie's. Wide open movements with plenty of room for the band to stretch out. Outstanding song writing and composition. Bottom line, superior compositions turn me on.

Lighter Than Air 9.5/10 (19:34)- Symphonic Epic spreads out, takes its time, totally delivers. Echoes of Meddle era Floyd. Bjorndal's sepia guitar solos soar like the seagull cornet at the end of the King Crimson song, Islands. Twelve string guitars. This guy must play with his fingers like Linsey Buckingham. Bass and Keys erupt like Spring bluebells against the softer wheat tones. This song makes me wish it were longer. Can't believe it goes by so fast. Bjordal sews his transitions seamlessly. Nothing awkward here. Drunk on the keyboards, my heart hitchhikes aboard another heavenly guitar lead. My nervous system surrenders. Superb production.

Bjorndal approaches his craft like an ancient woodworker who fells his own trees. Bjorndal fells a Porcupine Tree, an Oak, an old King Crimson Maple, and an Opeth Spruce. Bjorndal's carved and polished four personal woodcuts of prog poetry. The vinyl and CD sounds better than internet streams and Youtube. Truly, my favorite album since Hand Cannot Erase. Recommended for fans of superior composition, analog, and singer-songwriter symphonic prog. Magnified as Giants is an easy masterpiece of progressive rock.

 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

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Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by JohnProg

5 stars The good reception that some bands have had that try to pick up the legacy of the classic prog, shows us that it does not matter to do more of the same, as long as it is done with sense and quality. Caligonaut, like Wobbler, Logos, Jordsjø among others, present us with a program with elements that we all know and enjoy.

The Music of Caligonaut sounds like a mix between the symphonic prog and other calmer proposals, such as the Gazpacho band and psychedelic rock. Simple melodies that gain strength when harmonized by the keyboards, dark and gloomy moments, voices that play with the counterpoint - you only have to listen to the first four minutes of the first track, to realize that voices are a great resource on this album. - and the constant variations of the pieces, make the album make us feel at home. The atmosphere of the album is, in general terms, melancholic and introspective; something that Steven Wilson fans may like.

Caligonaut is a project that fans of the "retro prog" may like. A style that does not innovate at all, but ... Does that matter? When music is able to touch your heartstrings, and make your mind fly, it does not matter if it is an avant- garde proposal or a style from 50 years ago.

 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

BUY
Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars With bands like Wobbler and All Traps On Earth generating a revived surge in quality retro prog that carries on the traditions of the more melodic side of progressive rock from the 1970s heyday, many new artists are jumping on the bandwagon and crafting their own 21st century interpretations of the stylistic majesty of the past and giving it all a welcome modernization upgrade for modern prog appetites. The Norwegian CALIGONAUT is the alter ego of Ole Michael Bjørndal who has become a seasoned prog veteran with bands such as Oak, Airbag and the Bjørn Riis Band.

Regarding the moniker, the word "caligo" in English refers to a speck on the cornea causing poor vision and the "naut" suffix refers to refers to navigation so all i can think about is how one would navigate on a cornea like a speck of dust! LOL but i digress. Back to our regularly scheduled review, hehe. MAGNIFIED AS GIANTS is the first release by CALIGONAUT and although this is technically a solo project, it is performed in a band format with Bjørndal on guitar and vocals and eight guest musicians adding the bass, drums, more guitars and the plethora of keyboards, mellotron, synthesizers and church organs.

This is a highly melodic slice of progressive rock that deploys aspects of symphonic prog, neo-prog and Pink Floydian space rock which tease out simple melodic constructs into sprawling progressive compositions. References to early Genesis, King Crimson and even Led Zeppelin have been cited but perhaps the most striking similarity is with fellow Norwegians Wobbler made all the more tangible with contributions by Wobbler members Andreas W. S. Prestmo and Lars Fredrik Frøislie who perform mellotron, moog and also offer backing vocals. In addition, the album features contributions from members of Meer, Airbag, Oak and Pylmico.

MAGNIFIED AS GIANTS clocks in at nearly 51 minutes but features only four tracks, three of which exceed the ten minute mark with the highlight coming in the form of the closing 19 1/2 behemoth "Lighter Than Air." While the Wobbler comparisons are warranted to some degree, CALIGONAUT is a much mellower beast with slow sombre tones and timbres that rarely burst out into more uptempo rock heft. In fact with Bjørndal's mopey vocal style, the album is quite melancholy with themes right out of the Steven Wilson playbook about the nebulous nature of transcending painful memories regarding relationships that just didn't quite work out. Also from the Wilson arena is the stellar production that nurtures every tone and timbre and milks it for its full effect without interference from forced or trivial elements.

The title track is perhaps the most touching with a strong melody that pierces the soul with its status as shortest track of the album a mere near six minute run. The grande finale, the near 20 minute magnum opus "Lighter Than Air" is indeed a chilled out procession of space rock with a fully functional symphonic backdrop. Nice chord changes and pleasant transitions in stylistic development makes this my top pick of a consistently enchanting album. This is the track that also features some of the most energetic rock outbursts of the entire album as well however for the most part this light and fluffy affair provides a cascade of crafty cadences augmented with subtle textures and sensual pastural placidity.

While not quite up to the standards of Wobbler's latest classics, CALIGONAUT does indeed score points for conjuring up a beautifully delicate array of four stellar prog tracks that capture the essence of symphonic prog hybridized with the softer dynamics of psychedelic space rock. I do wish there were more energetic episodes of faster tempos and guitar driven rock heft, however as it stands there is not a bad minute of listening time on this one despite the overall package not quite reaching the lofty heights of what others have done before. In short, CALIGONAUT may not have launched its magnum opus onto the world quite yet, but it's evident that such a masterwork is latent and itching to come. A true act to keep your eyes gazed upon.

 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

BUY
Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by Soul2Create

4 stars If you were amazed by Wobbler' Dwelers of the Deep and you have been looking for something remotely similar to satisfy your apetite, then Magnified as giants is going to be your unexpected gift of the year. At least for me, it has really been a surprise, and a great one! Caligonaut is the project by Ole Michael Bjørndal, who is supported by musicians from other well known bands such as Wobbler and Airbag (in fact, 3/5 of Wobbler appear here). The music is symphonic prog with a strong 70's flavour and few modern twists scattered here and there. My favourite track is Emperor, as it feels like a continuation from Wobbler's Morte Macabre:

1. Emperor (9/10) 2. Hushed (8/10) 3. Magnified As Giants (8/10) 4. Lighter Than Air (8.5/10)

Four solid stars for me, especially recommended if you are a symphonic prog lover.

 Magnified as Giants by CALIGONAUT album cover Studio Album, 2021
4.20 | 120 ratings

BUY
Magnified as Giants
Caligonaut Crossover Prog

Review by prog_traveller!!

5 stars This album is like a gateway to mysterious lands of music, leading you to the world of magic and fantasy, not yust by music but with brilliant lyrics. Bombastic progressive rock accompany the lyrics that you can hear came from the mind of a genius. Ole Michael Bjørndal, a Norwegian known for militancy in Oak, Airbag and Bjørn Riis Band, is here as a composer of intricate, elegant and well-thought-out rock under the name Caligonaut.

Magnified as Giants contains four songs and definitely represents all the best that Norwegian prog rock has been delivering for years. Beautiful melodies accompanied by incredible playing, the guitar solos that stretch through the album catapult you into other dimensions, make this album an amazing achievement and currently the best album of 2021 and will probably be one of the best achievements of the year. Members of the band Wobbler, Andreas W. S. Prestmo, Kristian Karl Hultgren and Lars Fredrik Frøislie, appear as guests on the album and give their contribution which only adds to the quality of this work.

An instrumental beginning that evolves more and more into a classic ballad, embellished, however, by a truly inspired bass throughout the verse. A very old school hint takes us by the hand in a mini solo, a foretaste of what will instead be the beginning of the new room of this suite, with suitable violins that are perfectly cohesive with the sound. The rhythm section is a pearl, starting from the bottom but ending in a drums at times destructive and at times with a delicate and never banal groove. Another incredible second solo, the leitmotif that is recalled to the voice and a female choir accompanied by acoustics, therefore, in no time at all, conclude this circular piece resulting in an opening that is all in all convincing and fascinating.

However, the big hit is Hushed, with the organist Iver Kleive giving a very respectable quid. The medieval acoustic opening seems to have come out in its own right from the 1970s project. Here, too, a powerful and concrete bass continues to rage for the entire duration of the piece, becoming the indirect protagonist of the lot. Solo a la Pink Floyd, an excited final of the organ and a breathtaking outburst as a bridge between past and present leads to the brass at the end: a journey that seems to fly away with great musical flair. The title track is paradoxically the most anonymous piece, almost six minutes without particular pathos, but pleasant composition.

Lighter than Air continues on this line, causing fear of a drop in the galvanized power of the beginning. The second quarter, however, fortunately, disproves everything. A fun explosion, from very distant punk notes in the vocal lines, but also a solidly constructed rock guitarwork set up a good melodic system and intricate bridges. The bass continues to impose law and an exciting section of guitar tapping, a funky rhythm part and a synth in full climax add to the destructive snare that opens up a new musical delirium. The long introspective and meditative section of the second section bridges with almost disturbing notes but, after a while, fabulous, in the Marillon style to be clear. The finish is bittersweet, inspired, delicate and ... simply beautiful, an overly mistreated term that actually well encapsulates the sensation felt in listening to the closing of the album.

Listening to this album you will get the best from the world of prog music. From melodic vocals, guitars with folk elements, classic symphonic prog to a modern approach of composing, with elements of heavy prog.

Thanks to dAmOxT7942 for the artist addition.

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